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Encyclopedia > Learning organization


Peter Senge and the Learning Organization

In his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter Senge defined a learning organization as the capacity of organizations to create results that matter. As it is only the results that matter that allow organizations to be sustainable. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization is a book by Peter Senge (a senior lecturer at MIT) focusing on group problem solving using the systems thinking method in order to convert companies into learning organizations. ... Peter Michael Senge was the Director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and is presently (2005) on the faculty at MIT. He is the founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL). ...

The work of Learning Organization as defined in this book was developed as an anti-thesis to current leadership and management theories as we know today. Guess where the latter come from? Here's a tip: Think of a time in recent histories where large numbers of persons were brought together and managed. Did you say "the military"? You guessed it right! That's where modern business concepts were born. Eventually leaders in the military quite naturally assumed leadership positions within the economy (government) and the private sectors. And how do you think one managed one's organizations? Well, ... just like the Commander!

Except there is a difference! Most military systems are not designed for the long-term. It is designed for short-term - "you kill the enemy and get out!". Try running an organization like that AND also be sustainable. Often that means doing so at a high price (environmental damages, internal resentment and politicking, global warming, creating destitution and eventually corruption, etc.). Companies and countries do not "stay alive" very long that way - just like the enemies who come back within the military. They died quickly. We were somehow killing our own organizations and not learning why so.

The work of Learning Organization and in particular the five disciplines that Peter Senge and his team noticed was to help organization learn to become more sustainable in their efforts.

To do so, the tools and principles of Learning Organisation help us essentially do one thing! They helps us see and understand the "frames we are using" to understand the realities, the challenges we are dealing with and the aspirations that we are seeking. They allow us to anchor five disciplines (attitudes, values and practices) needed as a whole to think, inquire and understand our (shared) realities so as to make sense of the experiences of complex and recurrent problems we face today and use these understandings to re-create the realities we care to create together for tomorrow.

According to Senge:

Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us a deep hunger for this type of learning.

The reality each of us sees and understands depend on what we believe is there. By learning the principles of the five disciplines, teams begin to understand how they can think and inquire that reality, so that they can collaborate in discussions and in working together create the results that matter (to them).

In the Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge describes learning organizations as places "where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole (reality) together." They do so by:

  • Seeing and learning to work with interrelations (circles of causality or "feedback") as well as processes of change (or the time (delays) it takes for change to happen). The extent to which we see these feedbacks and delays hinges on the frames or lenses we are using to help us make sense of our realities. Are we learning to see (practice) the "whole story" or a part of it (linear cause-effect)? The extent to which we see our frames determines the extent to which we understand our realities.
  • Sharing a set of tools / methodologies and theories: A learning organization may create a specific enterprise taxonomy - a common and agreed upon understanding of terms, concepts, categories and keywords that apply within that organization. See: http://www.lopn.net/60_Tools.html.
  • Building Guiding Ideas: Leaders and members in a Learning Organization, see primacy of the whole (understand complexities), the generative power of language (generative conversations by recognizing one's frames that get in the way of seeing another's frames) and the community nature of self (seeing oneself and the connectedness to the whole and the world). The true learning organization is redesigning itself constantly or not merely led by the leader (and his frame). A leader in the organization instead supports this redesigning by acting as a steward (stewarding persons' visions), teacher and designer (bringing different views together for all of us to see the extent of the system (or ship)as compared to the merely being the captain of the ship). See article below on "The Leaders' New Work"

Peter Senge defined a learning organization as human beings cooperating in dynamical systems (as defined in systemics) that are in a state of continuous adaptation and improvement. ...

See also

Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge. ... In a knowledge organization, people use systems and processes to generate, transform, manage, use, and transfer knowledge-based products and services to achieve organizational goals. ... An Organization Story is defined as collective storytelling system in which the performance of stories is a key part of members sense-making and a means to allow them to supplement individual memories with institutional memory (Boje, 1991: 106). ... Organizational learning is an area of knowledge within organizational theory that studies models and theories about the way an organization learns and adapts. ... Storytelling has long been a feature of human societies, groups and organizations. ... Social engineering has several meanings: Social engineering (political science) Social engineering (computer security) This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists pages that might otherwise share the same title. ...



The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge, Doubleday, 2006 [1]

Learning Organizations, eds. Sarita Chawla and John Renesch, Productivity Press, 1995 [2]

External links

  • Society for Organizational Learning
    • About Peter Senge
    • Organizational Learning milestones
    • The core of Learning Organization
    • The language of Learning Organization
    • Recommended Reading
  • Learning Organization Practitioners' Network (LOPN/Singapore)
  • Learning Organization Rapid Diagnostic, LEONARDO Tool, University of Colorado
  • The Leader's New Work: Building Learning Organizations, by Peter Senge

  Results from FactBites:
Organizational learning - definition of Organizational learning in Encyclopedia (346 words)
Organizational learning is an area of knowledge within organizational theory that studies models and theories about the way an organization learns and adapts.
In Organizational development (OD), learning is a characteristic of an adaptive organization, i.e., an organization that is able to sense changes in signals from its environment (both internal and external) and adapt accordingly.
In double-loop learning, the entities (individuals, groups or organization) question the values, assumptions and policies that led to the actions in the first place; if they are able to view and modify those, then second-order or double-loop learning has taken place.
Organizational Learning and Learning Organizations: An Overview (1766 words)
Argyris (1977) defines organizational learning as the process of "detection and correction of errors." In his view organizations learn through individuals acting as agents for them: "The individuals' learning activities, in turn, are facilitated or inhibited by an ecological system of factors that may be called an organizational learning system" (p.
Weick (1991) argues that the defining property of learning is the combination of same stimulus and different responses, however it is rare in organizations meaning either organizations don't learn or that organizations learn but in nontraditional ways.
Or else, he argues, Organizational Learning perhaps involves a different kind of learning than has been described in the past: "the process within the organization by which knowledge about action-outcome relationships and the effect of the environment on these relationships is developed" (Duncan and Weiss 1979).
  More results at FactBites »



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